The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
By Justin Moss, Florida Grand Opera
On January 24, 2013, students and invited donors filled the Ziff Ballet-Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. It was dress rehearsal night and excitement filled the hall as everyone prepared to take their seats for a preview of Florida Grand Opera’s (FGO) newest production of Mozart’s beloved Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). But opera was not the only art form to be seen that evening. The lobby was colorfully filled with an inspiring selection of art – watercolors, paintings, sketches, and sculpture – all student creations inspired by the story of The Magic Flute through a new FGO education program entitled Opera Art.
The program is an expansion of a successful collaboration between FGO and Miami-Dade County Public Schools that began last season, leveraging the company’s first production of a zarzuela (a Spanish singspiel, if you will) to spur a cultural exploration of the Spanish heritage so richly abundant in the South Florida community. Brian Reedy, an art teacher at South Dade Senior High, was an active participant in the program and at the start of the 2012-2013 season, reached out to FGO Education Director Cerise Sutton with new ideas. “Let’s continue this year … why make it just one event. I think it is something that can continue growing,” said Reedy.
Sharing the enthusiasm to cultivate the relationship, Sutton looked to The Magic Flute. She knew the production’s stunning visuals and fairytale quality would “set the students’ minds to work and produce some phenomenal art,” she said. The idea was to create an initiative that would challenge students to “step out of the box and create their vision of Magic Flute,” said Sutton. Using tools he acquired from FGO’s “Mozart Code” Teacher Workshop last October, Reedy was able to incorporate opera into his every day curriculum and inspire some unique creations. Reedy wanted to provide students with an opportunity to use their imaginations to showcase their individual personalities and explore their own creativity. “I gave a brief synopsis, but really encouraged individual research. The kids really had a lot of fun coming up with their own ideas for different scenes from the story,” he explained. “This opera really is so visually elaborate it allows for so much individual interpretation.”
With the program blossoming at South Dade Senior, FGO extended participation to Somerset Academy Charter Middle School. Under the direction of art teacher Simone Lee, students brought the mythical characters of The Magic Flute to life with paper machete masks and sculptures.
Demonstrating the success of the program, the amount of art submitted for exhibition grew exponentially from the first year to the next, starting out with about a dozen pieces in 2012 and reaching nearly 60 works of art this year. “We had so many pieces of art that all of it could not be displayed in the lobby of the Arsht Center,” said Sutton.
The Ziff Ballet-Opera House lobby was transformed into a gallery of opera-inspired works from every medium, a sight enjoyed by special guest Dr. Maria de Armas, Assistant Superintendent for the Division of Academic Support. But she wasn’t the only spectator. Large groups of students, attending the evening’s performance as part of FGO’s Dress Rehearsal Program, gathered to admire the display along with staff and opera patrons. Students not only got to experience opera through the performance that evening, but also proudly engaged in it with works of their own, handsomely showcased and shared with their peers. For more information on Florida Grand Opera’s educational programs, please visit the company’s website at or contact Education Director Cerise Sutton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-354-1643.